Agriculture News South Africa

Top achievers in deciduous fruit industry awarded

At a gala event in Somerset West, the top achievers in the South African deciduous fruit industry received awards for their excellence.

The awards went to:

Top achievers in deciduous fruit industry awarded

Pitso Sekhoto, Novice of the Year

Pitso Sekhoto, who is also director of Mokolobane Farmers Enterprises in the Free State, said he has never won anything in his life. "You have no idea how much this means to me. This award humbles me beyond words." Sekhoto added that any business should make money, but money should never be the chief motivator if you want to be a farmer. "Successful growers share one characteristic - they all have excellent people skills. It is people who do the work and people who have to carry you through the tough times."

Leonie Jantjies, Farm Worker of the Year

Leonie Jantjies started as a general farm worker in 2007 on the Koue Bokkeveld farm Kromfontein. Over the last three years, she successfully managed an orchard replanting project. Jantjies was described as someone with great determination and excellent organisational skills who tackles any project fearlessly. "I am extremely grateful for this award, but this achievement is not just for me, it is also for my team and my manager."

Pierre Fortuin, Specialist Farm Worker of the Year

Pierre Fortuin, also from Kromfontein, started as a general worker in 1982; today he is the manager of the crop protection programme of the estate. Stephan Badenhorst, senior production manager at Kromfontein, said that in his opinion, Fortuin is the industry's best crop protection manager. "He is an excellent planner and manages his team with precision and great commitment. He has been protecting our fruit for the last eight years and is a deserving recipient."

Frikkie Jacobs, Farm Manager of the Year

Farm Manager of the Year, Frikkie Jacobs, from the farm Queen Anne outside Villiersdorp, managed to improve production on the farm with 60% within a two-year period. Under his care, they produce 18,000 crates annually.

Aat Hoekstra, OSH Reinecke Industry Leader of the Year Award

Aat Hoekstra is a Dutchman who visited South Africa in 1950 and fell in love with the country and decided to make it his new home. Hoekstra, lauded by the British Journal of Fresh Produce as South Africa's breeding pioneer, had a huge impact on the local table grape community. Hoekstra imported cultivars from as far afield as California and Israel, and was also the brain behind Prime Seedless, one of the most successful cultivars. Hoekstra played an integral part in establishing drip irrigation and was also the first local producer to export his table grapes to Europe. An emotional Hoekstra thanked his wife, Anneline, and his daughter Marleen, for their support and the roles that they played in his success.

Tienie du Preez, Innovator of the Year

Technical advisor, Tienie du Preez, with almost forty years industry experience, received the Innovator of the Year Award. Du Preez is well-known for his robust scientific approach, and his site-specific management style for orchards and vineyards have been adopted widely by the industry. Du Preez is also well-known for his human capital development and his belief in industry-wide knowledge sharing.

Other awards

The deciduous fruit canning industry awarded Wynand du Plessis with the AD Collins Award for exceptional service and the Dried Fruit Technical Services awarded Kobus Hanekom posthumously for the industry contributions that he made.

The receiver of the AD Collins Award, Wynand du Plessis, is a trained chartered accountant who became involved in the canning industry. "In accounting everything has to balance," he said, "but I quickly learned that in the fruit industry things work very differently. If you want to achieve anything you have to invest in people and relationships."

Kobus Hanekom, who received an Achievement Award posthumously, was the first initiator of a BEE farming project near Keimoes in the Northern Cape. Hanekom shared his drying facility, equipment and knowledge with his new neighbours, and saw this as an opportunity to help them produce top quality products.

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